Two Wonderful Girls. One Day At A Time…

Archive for January, 2009

My Poor Meatball

Let’s start with a few updates since I haven’t written for awhile:


Robyn at 6 months is smiling CONSTANTLY.  She’s rolling over and over, and just started sitting up (did Obama inspire her too?).  She’s sleeping much better since we moved her to her own crib in her own room.  A few nights so far, she only woke once around 2am (in a stretch of about 8pm-6:30am).  She’s eating solid food – so far carrots are her favorite.  She still won’t take a bottle or pacifier…  Teething is not bothering her as much, maybe because she is better at holding her teethers by herself without dropping them as often.  Sophie the Giraffe is our newfound favorite teether that goes with her everywhere.  She bites and grabs everything in sight.  Watch out if you wear glasses!  Her favorite is the placemat trick – if you sit her on your lap while eating a meal, she grabs the placemat lightening fast, aiming to send your dinner crashing to the floor. 


Iris at 3 years and 3 months seems to be past the crazy overwhelming “daily tantrum” phase that plagued us in November and December.  She’s much calmer and more polite most of the time.  She talks non-stop, and after preschool she’s especially verbose, since apparently her student persona is silent and observant.  She still loves imagination and pretending we are someone else.  For the last few days I’ve been either Koka (Sandy’s dad) or Santa Claus, while she is Sandy-as-a-baby or my elf, respectively.  She asks that I speak in the voice of the character as well.  “say Ho Ho Ho mommy!” or “can you say that with your Koka voice?” Mind you, I do horrible impressions, and it’s a good thing most of this happens with no one else around to hear it!  My “Koka voice” is sadly very far off, and might even be an Irish accent… 

Iris seems to have more energy that needs to be burned off these days, and especially enjoys soccer, riding her tricycle, and ice skating.  She spends a lot of time on detailed or crafty tasks too – drawing with chalk outside, or spending hours with her sticker books, crayons and note paper.  Yesterday while sitting at her table writing meticulously tiny characters on a note pad she said “I’m daddy.  I’m writing my to-do list.  Iris you need to wait because if I don’t do this now, I’ll have to do it later tonight when you want me to stay upstairs after bedtime.  This is very important.”  She can almost write her name, though “R” is still challenging.


But the most interesting thing to me right now is the capacity that both Iris and Robyn seem to have for empathy.  Iris has continued her concern for others, including inanimate objects…  She has always been extra sensitive:  as a one year old she burst into inconsolable tears at Gymboree when they bounced stuffed animal fish off the gym mat, and pointed out earnestly when a child fell over while “riding the parachute”; as a two year old she again was the only child in a room full of kids watching a library storytime who was devastated when Humpty Dumpty eggs on the felt storyboard “fell off the wall” – so much so that we had to go up afterwards to have the librarian show her they were okay.  I began to find myself avoiding common kids songs or books like “monkeys bouncing on the bed” or “the cradle will fall” because I knew they’d elicit a strong reaction and questions.  But lately it seemed maybe she had finally toughened up as a three year old.


Nope.  Last week we read her a new book that had the song “On Top Of Spaghetti” – to the tune of “On Top of Old Smokey”… if you don’t know this version, it includes “I lost my poor meatball, when somebody sneezed.  It rolled on the table, and onto the floor, and then my poor meatball, rolled out of the door.  It rolled in the garden and under a bush, and then my poor meatball was nothing but mush.”  Her eyes got big and her bottom lip jutted out, eyes teared up, she inhaled sharply… then let out a wail!  What?  At first we had no idea what she was upset about.  But then she said “the poor meatball!”  Well, we had to discuss the whereabouts of that meatball in detail throughout the day, especially at bedtime, and for days afterwards.  She now finally has made peace with it, and has the song memorized.  She’ll sing it to her stuffed animal friends, and assure them that it’s just a silly song, so not to worry about the meatball.  “It grew into a tree full of baby meatballs now anyway.” 


So her next question was even more complex: “why are the dinosaurs all extinct?”  Hmmm… how do I answer that one without really depressing her?  I’m really not sure how I will explain eventually where the chicken or fish she eats comes from…

 Robyn may have a similar tendency too.  She has been a generally quiet baby, who was silent even during Iris’ entire “naked preschool” episode.  (don’t ask – let’s just say it was Iris’ record tantrum in December that mommy refused to give in to)  But now Robyn notices a lot more, and the minute Iris cries or gets upset, Robyn reacts with her own a passionate wail.  Oh boy.  Here we go again.  Will this sense of empathy carry on throughout their lives, inspiring them to help other people in some magnificent way?  A future Mother Teresa or Barack Obama?


For the past couple of years, I’ve been using the Nike+ tracking
system to monitor my long-distance running. After my heart surgery, I
needed some motivation to get back to running so I made a commitment to
reach 2000 miles before the end of 2008 (I was at 1650 when I
restarted in mid-July and could barely run a mile, so I’ve come a long
way). As promised, on December 30th, I went for a seven-mile run to
bring the total up to 2001. As part of my final runs, I took advantage
of the fact that the numbers represented recent year to get a little
nostalgic about the old days. So as I would be running mile 1994, I
would think back to the year 1994. During that last run, which spanned
a good chunk of the 90s, I was remembering the care-free days of being
single in college and the early years in Sacramento, followed by the
first couple of years dating Cherise. Obviously, things were simple
then (though I’m sure it didn’t seem so at the time) and I remembered
what it was like to go out to the bars on Friday nights or sleep in on
Sunday mornings. Wild nights. Impromptu plans. Long road trips. Very
few commitments. Wasting an afternoon away just wandering through a
bookstore or used CD store. It was definitely a part of my life that I
cherish. Later that afternoon, I was sitting on the couch working on my
computer when my thoughts strayed to those days of the mid-90s where
things seemed so simple and no one depended on me and I had no
commitments. Sometimes I wonder why I gave those up. Just as that
thought came into my head, as if on cue, Iris walked over to me with a
Sesame Street book:

"Look Daddy," said Iris pointing to the page with Big Bird hugging
a teddy bear. "This page says ‘Two Best Friends’. That’s like us. We’re
two best friends."

Umm, does anyone have a tissue?

It’s hard to pinpoint the great moments of one’s life. There are
obvious ones like the day I met Cherise or when we got married or the
days that Iris and Robyn were born. And there are the ones that relate
to some of my passions, like the first time I walked into Memorial
Stadium in Baltimore (where the Orioles used to play) or the first time
I saw the rock group REM in concert. And then there are times like this
that don’t mark any sort of milestone, but reflect a culmination of
something very special. I always said that when Iris met my dad, that
was something special and no one will ever be able to take that moment
away from me. This one was just as good. Now, to be fair, I can’t say
she came up with this idea of best friends on her own. Fact is, I
always refer to us as best friends because (a) I believe it and (b)
teaching her how to be a good friend is probably as important as
anything I can do for her. But when she randomly called it out herself
and did so with such enthusiasm, I was touched beyond belief. Couple
that with the fact that I was in the middle of a nostalgic pre-parental
era when it happened and it serves as this amazing splash of cold water
in my face. In the first couple years of a child’s life, as a parent,
you are needed. But now, I was wanted. My daughter had declared that
she enjoyed my company above all else. Suddenly, I couldn’t remember
what was so great about Friday nights on the town or Sunday mornings
that started at 10am. After all, my best friend didn’t even exist back
then. And now, here she is in the flesh. She tells jokes and laughs at
mine. She draws special pictures for me. She always asks me to pull my
chair next to hers when we eat so that we can sit next to each other.
Sometimes she picks my clothes (she particularly partial to an orange
shirt with a picture of a cow that says "I (Heart) Vegetarians", a
clever nod to my vegetarian wife–thanks Barna Pehi!). She invents new
games and teaches me how to play them. She genuinely misses me when I
have to go into the office or when I say goodnight to her. I’ve blogged
in the past about the opportunity to fall in love again, but this is
something different. It’s about simply enjoying someone’s company. I’ve
had a lot of close friends in my life, but nothing quite like this. I
imagine our relationship will evolve at some point in time and she’ll
increase her independence until she eventually decides she doesn’t
really need her dad around much. And once her sister does the same,
I’ll get my freedom back to resume my fun 90s behavior. And the day I
realize that has happened, I imagine you will get to read a blog about
one of the worst moments of my life…

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